Volunteers are so essential to whether a school can make it or not that many schools have made volunteering mandatory. School officials said the concept of service hours is a common practice up north that has migrated south.
St. Michael in Garden City started off requiring three service hours per person, said Miriam Jones, principal, but when families from different states commented on how low that number was, they increased the hours to 20.
Requirements tend to range between 10 and 20 hours, or parents can choose a monetary opt-out fee, the price of which fluctuates from school to school. Principals who spoke to The Miscellany said they are happy to say that almost all of their parents would rather volunteer.
“We’d rather have the work hours come in to help the school with its various needs,” said Anthony Perrini, principal of St. Anne School in Rock Hill.
St. Anne is implementing service hours for the first time this year, asking each person for 10 hours. Perrini said that isn’t a lot of time over the course of a year, adding that there are probably thousands of ways to help.
How to help
- Festivals and other fundraisers always need lots of hands;
- Help from home by making posters or phone calls;
- Volunteer with the athletic director to help with sports and other events.
Principals and teachers all praise their volunteers to the heavens, but said they tend to see the same faces over and over. Having service requirements gets more people involved, and some even stay on after their hours are fulfilled.
Many of the regular volunteers are stay-at-home parents or those with flexible schedules, but school officials said parents with outside jobs can also find plenty of ways to help.
How to help
- Serve in the lunchroom before work, in the after-school program, or at the many extracurricular activities that happen in the evenings and on weekends.
Franciscan Sister Catherine Noecker said Catholic schools simply could not function without the help of parents and community members.
“The volunteers are a critical piece, and they are such a blessing to us,” she said. “It’s hard to put into words just how much we need them.”
Because they are so essential, St. Anthony requires every parent to donate 15-20 hours of their time to the school, Sister Catherine said.
She said many people who didn’t think they had the time found it when they had to, and then, to their surprise, found they enjoyed it.
Volunteers work in the office, tutor students, serve as music, art and physical education teachers, and do all the fundraising.
“You can’t tell a volunteer from anyone else,” she said. “They work just as hard as paid staff.”
Having parents participate is part of the stewardship concept and makes them feel like they are contributing to the school’s success, Sister Catherine said.
She acknowledges that it’s harder for parents with day jobs, but said there are ways for them to help from home.
How to help
- Create and print newsletters from home, or help with the website;
- Plan ahead and schedule a day off to attend a field trip or special event at the school.
Of course, not all schools have service requirements. Blessed Sacrament in Charleston is one that still operates strictly by volunteers.
Roseann Tracy, principal, said they have a strong Home and School Association that finds parents and community members to help when they are needed — and they are needed in all areas of school life.
“Without the volunteers, I don’t know how we would keep going,” she said.
Her advice to parents is to come to the school, get to know the other moms and dads, join the HSA and become part of the community.
Tracy noted that at open house, there is a table full of volunteer opportunities and encouraged parents, grandparents, and others to sign up for their areas of interest.
How to help
- Talk to the teacher if you’re a working parent. Explain that you want to help but time is limited, and find out what can be done from home.
On a scale of 1 to 10, Jones said volunteers are an emphatic 10 in the contributions they make to a successful school.
“They help with fundraising which is essential for financial health, but more than anything, it’s an opportunity to help build community within the school,” she said.